What does it mean to be genuine?

On the surface, that might seem like a rather odd, and obvious, question. Being genuine means being real. It entails authenticity. It incorporates truthful thoughts and emotions, working together with heart, soul, and spirit to be who we actually are, not who we think we are or wish to be. Or at least it ought to. Simple enough.

That said, being genuine does not always imply positives. If someone is an open-faced jerk, liar, abuser, or what have you, they are to their infinitesimally minute credit at least making no pretense regarding their character, or to be more precise lack thereof. Being genuine is hardly automatic eligibility for receiving time off due to good behavior.

Very few are genuine about what tears at them from within or without. The abuse victim carefully disguises her bruises with makeup and her emotional/mental scars with rationalizations they are somehow just punishment for her sins. The addict hides the bottle or weed or pills or syringe or powder or crystals from all save fellow addicts, to everyone else denying there is any problem while insisting they are complete masters of their preferred poison. The person being chewed up and spit out by the depression monster puts on the happiest of faces as they publicly trip the light fantastic and privately desperately try to not trip over their lying mind’s monotrack insistence there is no relief and no hope. We dream of peace and love. Far too many among us find neither.

Far too many of us also do what we can to avoid the genuine, for the genuine bears truth and truth can be most unkind to our aforementioned beliefs regarding who we are as compared to, well, truth. Many seek diversion via what athletes refer to as false hustle. False hustle makes a great show of demonstrating determination and grit. In fact, it is empty showboating, an attempt to window dress affecting that which is already determined. An example of this is a baseball player ferociously chasing down a foul pop up that everyone in the ballpark knows will land ten rows back in the seats. Outside of sports, false hustle commonly manifests itself as purporting oneself to be providing a great service by doing a great work when in Realville it is so much bell ringing within an echo chamber.

So what to do? The master of both shimmering pop and soul stripped bare blues says it best:

Seize the moment now
There’s so little time before it’s gone
Redemption is at hand
No matter what chemical you’ve taken on
And if you use another plan
It’s got to be the Genuine

The One Great Genuine is Christ, crucified and risen. Yet there are other elements of genuine. The kind word, the listening ear, the lifting up of a fellow ragtag soldier as each helps carry the other through this world’s minefields; these, too, are genuine. Such things are often drowned out in a world that mistakes drawing attention as validation. Yet they, not the noisemakers, are genuine.

Seek the genuine.

Twenty-two years ago, popular music was drenched in and defined by alternative rock. Although grunge was reeling from Kurt Cobain’s suicide the previous year, artists spanning the alt world – Live, Alanis Morrisette, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains – all had number one albums. Even as mainstream artists such as Hootie and the Blowfish burned brightly and then quickly faded away, it was alt rock that commanded the lion’s share of media attention and acclaim.

One would think given its lifelong penchant for aping the regular music world, in 1995 the Christian music industry would have been pumping out anything in flannel with a fuzztone as it attempted to cash in … er, reach the world by promoting artists attuned to the latest style in tunes. There were a few efforts, but to a one they made scarcely a dent in the regular music world’s conscious, let alone among the music-buying public (yes, kids, there was a time when people had to buy the music they wanted to hear instead of turning on Spotify and variations thereof to get it all for free or near-free). This left the handful of artists who played Christian alternative rock tucked into a cul-de-sac well off popular music’s main road. They were cherished by the faithful few who managed to find out said artists existed despite the profound absence of promotion and airplay within Christian music. Sadly, they were completely passed over by the mainstream audience that couldn’t get enough of artists and bands mining the same tuneful veins who ofttimes were the artistic inferiors of Christian artists, yet received all glory and praise while others languished in near total obscurity for the primary reason of those responsible for promoting these deserving artists being either unable to, or unwilling to, get the word out. One such band we today acknowledge, namely The Prayer Chain. Having recently put its 1995 and final studio album Mercury on its Bandcamp page provides the perfectly opportunity for unveiling this unknown slice of brilliance.

Rooted in Southern California, The Prayer Chain was on a record label owned by the management team that had made Amy Grant into a pop star. Yet even with this, it had not the slightest idea how to get the word out about this ferociously creative band. Apparently they were too busy blackballing me from the Christian music journalism world to undertake such an effort. But, that is a tale told elsewhere; back to Mercury.

The Prayer Chain was at its inception a fairly straightforward Christian rock band, albeit one with its sound firmly rooted in alternative rock’s aggressive guitar persona. The first hint this was not going to be a band prone to invitation at your local youth praise and worship session was 1993’s Shawl, when, on its first song, over a background chorus resembling an American Indian ghost dance chant fueled by peyote vocalist Tim Taber intoned ‘Shine is dead.’ For the record, “Shine” was the title of the band’s most upbeat Christianese song from its 1992 debut EP. From there, Shawl repeatedly bared its fangs, mixing songs such as one about a father abandoning his young son amid rich, florid without being pretentious Christian imagery. As superb as Shawl was, it only hinted at what was to come.

Mercury was originally presented to the record label in 1994 under the title Humb, an effort that so freaked out the powers that be they demanded some songs be removed altogether, other shuffled in play order, many remixed and reworked, and would you boys kindly record something new for the album we can actually release in the Christian marketplace. By this time in its brief lifespan the band was already falling apart, but it managed to put together the requested new track (“Sky High”). Yet even with this, The Prayer Chain maintained a fair amount of the anarchistic spirit that permeated the work; “Sky High” clocked in at a totally radio friendly exactly nine minutes.

Even in its slightly muted form as compared to the original, Mercury isn’t so much an album as a collection of cohesive chaos. A thick layer of effect-laden guitar sometimes drones and sometimes screams – quite regularly both simultaneously – as it swirls in and around slithery, frequently distorted bass lines, with drums more akin to an acidic percussionist than standard timekeeping completing the foundation for vocals from midnight in the garden where good and evil do battle. Had any of its standout tracks – “Waterdogs,” “Creole,” “Grylliade,” the list goes on – would have turned the mainstream alt rock world on its ear had they ever been brought to the attention of said ear. Which they weren’t. And so Mercury, and The Prayer Chain, regrettably slid out of view.

If you have any taste for raw, real music, don’t let past mistakes prevent you from seizing on this dark masterpiece. Get thee to the band’s Bandcamp site and buy Mercury today. It will shake you up for all the right reasons.

Some years back, alt rock cult favorite Wilco released a song titled “The Late Greats.” It paid homage to a set of fictitious artists, all creators of tremendous albeit unknown musical achievements. The 77s did a cover version of the song that is vastly superior to the original:

There are many real life bands and artists whose career bore, or bears, the hallmark of near anonymity in a world slavishly devoted to commercial garbage. They should be heralded music royalty (for example, The 77s). Instead, it requires an archeological expedition to find out they ever existed or continue to press on. It is of one such band from the past we speak of today: Barnabas.

Unless you are a devotee of ‘80s Christian metal, it’s a real life ripe dead certainty you’ve never heard of, let alone heard, Barnabas. It did little touring; its albums were not smashing sales successes. But it persevered far longer than most would have, or did, under the circumstances, releasing five albums during its nine year run that ended in 1986.

Barnabas first came to public attention beyond whoever attended one of its L.A. club shows following its 1977 inception when in 1980 Hear The Light was released on the well-intentioned and utterly incompetent, hence short-lived Tunesmith label. Band founder, guitarist, and leader Monte Cooley, accompanied by the husband and wife team of Nancyjo Mann on vocals and Gary Mann on bass and later keyboards, along with Kris Klingensmith on drums, put together an effort rewarded with the only negative record review in CCM Magazine’s history. In retrospect, although it would be utterly eclipsed by subsequent albums Hear The Light’s raw mix of punk and metal wasn’t that bad:

The band moved from L.A. to the Midwest, following which Cooley called it a day and quit. The three remaining members decided to carry on, recruiting guitarists Mick Donner and Kris Brauninger while Klingensmith assumed lyric writing duties. Although this lineup was short-lived, it did release 1981’s Find Your Heart A Home, a huge step up from Hear The Light in color and scope. Klingensmith’s lyrics were sophisticated and occasionally brusque. For example:

The conflict of desire sucks the spirit dry
Inside, madness haunts us; outside, eyes are dry
Hungry little baby cries throughout the night
But mother’s breasts are busy because the price is right

For some unfathomable reason, this didn’t get much airplay on Christian radio. Neither did “Southern Woman,” which if there was a shred of fairness in the music business would have been a smash hit on regular as well as Christian radio:

Brauninger left the band after Find Your Heart A Home was released. Donner stayed on, with Brian Belew joining the band as first an additional, and then its only, guitarist as Donner bowed out at the end of 1981. Belew was a dive bombing fret-shredding metal player of the highest order, his addition bringing Barnabas to a place where it could accomplish most anything it wished. And oh, did it wish.

1983 saw Barnabas signed to the Light label and recording music that was anything but light. Approaching Light Speed was manna from heaven for metal fans. It blended straight ahead crunchers with prog metal, sometimes rolling both into one song as was the case with the epic “Subterfuge:”

1984 brought Feel The Fire, further exploring the multiple facets of Barnabas’ metallic diamond. Somewhat oddly, the album’s standout track was “Hearts,” a relatively gentle keyboard outing that, as was the case with “Southern Woman,” should have been a smash hit on both Christian and regular radio:

Sadly, the lack of deserved success finally broke the band apart in 1986. However, it still owed Light one more record. The band vented its full fury on Little Foxes, setting most all of its quieter and prog notions aside in favor of a blistering assault in tracks such as “China White:”

And that was that. Everyone went their separate ways, including the Mann’s whose marriage disintegrated. All indicators pointed toward Barnabas being forever nothing more than a fond memory for those who still cherished its LPs and cassettes.

A funny thing happened on the way to the “whatever happened to” file, however. A fan put up a web page, Klingensmith came across it, and for several years a thriving online community site reminisced and rejoiced. Presently, Klingensmith and Nancyjo Mann are active on Facebook. (WARNING: Brief moment of shameless promotion ahead.) Yours truly interviewed Klingensmith, Nancyjo Mann, and Donner for my book on the early days of Christian alternative rock as Barnabas, while metal, were definitely pioneers. No, Stryper didn’t invent anything.

It’s sadly fitting that for the most part, bringing Barnabas’ recorded output into the digital age has been for the most part a complete botch. First there was a compilation of Approaching Light Speed and Feel The Fire that left out “Lights” and even more egregiously replaced Klingensmith’s powerhouse drumming with a puny drum machine. Next, the now thankfully defunct Millennium 8 (or M8) did its usual hack job, releasing discs with atrocious sound quality and such little attention to anything that one of the songs from Little Foxes, mastered from vinyl as the original tapes have long since gone missing, had three painfully audible skips on the record from which the CD was made that no one noticed or cared enough to correct once those who bought the CD pointed it out. It was not until this year that all five albums were done right on CD by the Retroactive label, yet even there with a catch: the number of discs made was small, and are already becoming difficult to find save on the secondary market.

Chances for any kind of so much as a one-off concert reunion are as close to guaranteed never as it gets due to lack of interest by, and strained relationships between, assorted members. Yet this, and until late last year the near impossibility of finding the band’s recorded work in listenable condition, have not dimmed Barnabas’ light. It was the band that should have, but was never allowed to. Its music has aged well, still fresh and vital some thirty plus years after the fact. Barnabas was a brilliant metal band, arguably the best such band that sadly very few knew existed. It truly is the greatest lost metal band of all time. If you have any affection for the hard stuff, go find them. You will be glad you did.

One of the few advantages growing older brings is experience. Experience is routinely discounted by those who have none, sometimes overrated by those who incorrectly perceive themselves as having some, and best recognized by its fruits, ofttimes borne by its faithful sidekick patience.

There’s a reason why Scripture tells us love is patient and kind. It is. Patience incorporates understanding that the mind’s back room routinely pulls us back from saying and/or doing something that at that moment seems to be the best, if indeed not the only, action plan. Only later on do we consciously realize what we didn’t say and/or do, at the time not understanding why we held back, was the correct response.

Experience and its faithful sidekick patience welcome along for the ride persistence, the ability to stick it out and not let the moment overly influence long term plans and possibilities. The person we are tempted to give up on, the one who despite all presented evidence fails to grasp the obvious, is quite often the one person we should doggedly stick with, or stick beside if you prefer. In time, light will pour into their opened eyes. God never gives up on us; we should follow His lead. Of course we should shield or remove ourselves from those committed to dragging others into their self-destruction, or who take satanic delight in destroying others. Thankfully, said allegedly human horror shows are limited in number. Most can be reached with love and forgiveness; if not today, in a future today whose exact date is unknown to us but will take place nonetheless.

Experience teaches us when and how to bide our time and bite our tongue, said actions routinely happening simultaneously. Not everything needs a comment; not everyone needs to hear what we believe we have to say. Let it ride. Let it slide. Slow your roll. Trust your experience-honed instincts. Listen for, and to, the still small voice. Seek both sides of the story, or as is often the case all three sides of the story: the one as seen by party A, the one as seen by party B, and the actual truth. Speak up when moved to do so, but pull in the reins when not. Let things play out.

And be kind.

ST:

Hope you don’t mind me saying all this in public. Speaking of which, best I introduce you to folk who, to their loss, aren’t aware of you and your work.

ST (short for pen name Sister Toldjah) is a lady of the South; North Carolina to be precise. She was blogging about politics long before it was the in thing to do and long before commercial blogging for corporate-owned sites came into being. ST, unlike many, doesn’t sit around all day searching for regular news stories to rewrite and/or comment upon as if this adds anything to the public discourse. She does research, digging deep to find the roots of current situations and analyzing same to detail not merely what is happening, but far more importantly why. She’s also an extremely nice, gracious young woman. Now, back to the letter.

ST, I noticed this morning the frustration you’ve occasionally mentioned over being routinely ignored by the blogosphere’s high rollers, not a few of whom you’ve generously helped along the way, boiling over. I understand, and boy can I relate. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way; hope it helps.

“They” (the Konservative Kool Kidz Klub”) aren’t worth it, ST. They’re a self-worshipping, self-satiated circle jerk with no talent save poorly rewriting stories taken from the mainstream media they insist they despise yet all the while would sell their soul for acceptance from same. They have never moved the body politic one inch in any direction even while claiming to be of great importance. They’re not. They never have been. They never will be.

Yes, it hurts when you know and have repeatedly demonstrated you’re more than worthy of the accolades and prestige gigs the KKKK routinely tongue bathes itself over. But they will never – never – accept you into the fold. You show them by simply showing up. They can’t handle the reality.

Find your heart, your passion, and pursue it even it it seems like the loneliest road in the valley and you’re wondering why you bother. It’s why I usually write about music, specifically my beloved classic Christian rock. I know I’ll never reach 1/100th of 1% of the people who’d voraciously devour every word if I churned out endless tripe about Obama being a poopyhead or Trump being a meanypants. But it’s okay. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Reaching one person with information that can positively change their life beats ten thousand slapback reverberations within the echo chamber. Every single time.

There are those who possibly you’ll never hear from who are uplifted, enriched, and encouraged by what you bring to light. Write for them. Write for you. Write from the love inside of you.

The chaff proclaiming itself to be the finest wheat will in time be blown away by the wind. But that done from and for the heart? That will remain. And there will be a reward.

Don’t lose heart, sis.

Two days after the event, I’m still having incredible difficulty processing the thought that Smithereens lead vocalist/songwriter/guitarist Pat DiNizio is gone. DiNizio had been fighting some major health issues for the past several years, but to lose him at 62 seems almost criminal.

The Smithereens were never a huge commercial success. They never had an album crack the top 40, and enjoyed only two top 40 singles. Nevertheless, they maintained a strong, loyal fan base that stayed with them throughout their multi-decade career. A sign of how revered they were by rock and roll royalty was that none less than the late Tom Petty insisted they come tour with him in 2013.

The Smithereens music was gritty, gut-level, always tough yet always melodic rock and roll. It was power pop minus the excessive cheeriness, a weary and wary overview of relationships gone wrong (and sometimes right). It was real music played by real men; no vapid pretty boy posing allowed. The Smithereens never took themselves overly seriously, but they were seriously brilliant.

This one is hard to process.

God speed, Pat DiNizio.

In most every area of life, there’s a seeming perpetual second fiddle; someone or something that while garnering a certain amount of acclaim is always viewed as the poor man’s version of whoever, or whatever, is the high profile high roller. This happens a lot in music, where an artist in a given genre no matter their skill or accomplishments is usually written off with a “well, he/she/they is/are okay, but he/she/they will never be as good as so-and-so.” Some artists acknowledge this fate; veteran British mellow progressive rockers Barclay James Harvest self-depreciatingly titled one of their songs “Poor Man’s Moody Blues.”

Keeping with the music theme, various instruments also fall into this perpetual silver medalist category. There are many superb pianos out there, but none have the allure of a Steinway; there are many superb violins, but none have the cachet of a Stradivarius. In a more down to earth category, namely the electric guitar, while the Gibson Les Paul is revered and rocked by players great and small, the Gibson SG is usually relegated to the that’s-nice department, often with a “so you couldn’t afford the real thing, huh?” smirk aimed its owners way (a new standard SG costs $1,650 less than a new standard Les Paul).

The SG was born out of, hard though it may be to believe given the Les Paul’s omnipresence, necessity when in the early 1960s Gibson was faced with a dilemma: no one was buying Les Pauls. Some rethinking and reengineering was called for, with the SG being the result. The SG’s body was noticeably thinner than the Les Paul, with some strategically located beveling incorporated for greater player comfort. Away went the maple top on a mahogany body that was the Les Paul’s normal wood selection; instead, the body was all mahogany. The neck was moved further away from the body, allowing easier access to the upper frets although much to Gibson’s chagrin it became rapidly apparent they had gone overboard as the neck-to-body joint was notoriously weak (this was corrected in the mid 1960s). Electronics and hardware were essentially the same, but the SG’s substantially different construction resulted in a somewhat less bright, more rounded tone than the Les Paul along with less sustain. Gibson discontinued making the Les Paul after 1960, introducing the SG in 1961 initially under the Les Paul name. The real Les Paul — yes, Virginia, there was a man named Les Paul who was a monster guitar player and guitar building innovator — was decidedly nonplussed with the new guitar and requested his name be removed from it. Which happened, the guitar being renamed the SG for solid guitar. Apparently no one at Gibson had any naming ideas that week.

Should one be inclined to peruse music video and concert footage from the 1960s, a fair number of SGs will be spotted. Eric Clapton played one boasting, sort of, a psychedelic paint scheme durin his time with Cream. Pete Townshend of The Who routinely played (and demolished) SGs during the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, the Les Paul was rediscovered during the 1960s, leading Gibson to reintroduce it in 1969 at which point the SG was relegated to “and we still make these too” status.

While the Les Paul is synonymous with rock royalty — Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, Duane Allman, Slash from Guns ‘N Roses, etc etc etc etc etc and a few dozen more etc after that — given how the two guitarists most commonly identified with the SG are Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Angus Young of AC/DC, the SG is more commonly associated with underworld pretend deity. Its pointed body tips are oft referred to as “devil’s horns.” Given how the SG is nine times out of ten finished in a medium to dark cherry red, I prefer to think of them as the tips of angel’s wings dipped in the blood of the martyrs. A simultaneously more lofty and sobering identifier.

I own a SG. It’s my favorite guitar to play. With the proper technique you can make it sound good for multiple musical genres, including country, in addition to the blues and rock with which it is normally associated. Does it have the almost unlimited sustain of a Les Paul? No. But it has its own unique, warm sound and you can hold a note for a decent length of time. It’s a dream to play, with low string action and its light weight helping you focus on the music alone rather than wondering if there’s a chiropractor in the house slinging a Les Paul over your shoulder for any length of time suggests.

The SG will never have the panache of a Les Paul. It will never be a status symbol or trophy guitar. Rather, it modestly exists for the sole purpose of enabling music creation.

Which, after all, is the idea behind any musical instrument.

Namely, pop music that doesn’t suck.

Nikki Edgar, née Nikki Leoni who released a few contemporary Christian albums back in the day, has just put out her first solo album in quite some time and first under her married name. Heartache Easy is … well, it’s so good it’s almost ridiculous.

Presently, pop music is marked by two characteristics. One, it uniformly dominates airplay, sales, and concert draws. Two, it’s uniform Cheez Whiz cookie cutter recipe drek, soulless machine-made aural junk food with layers of autotuned pseudo-singing atop even more layers of virtual instruments glued to drum machine blips. No heart. No depth. No human interaction. Rather like political Twitter. But I digress.

Into this teenage wasteland comes Edgar with seven songs worth of — brace yourself — real, live music. Let’s start with her voice. Edgar sings with synchronized heart and skill, serious joy that’s both confident and confessional. She grabs you by the heartstrings and holds on tight without ever squeezing the life out of you via excessive vocal gymnastics. Once heard, for all the right reasons Edgar’s singing is never forgotten.

Next up, the songs. Memorable and comfortable without being regurgitated rehashes of everything else presently out there, they are presented with understated human musical interaction. No drum machines. No synthesizer loops. Instead, they are appropriately sparse without affected ‘oh look how cool and stripped down we are’ pretentious annoyance. They provide the perfect backdrop for Edgar’s powerhouse singing.

Lyrically the album focuses on relationships, be it the overcoming spunk of “I’ve Learned” or the heart-rendering asunder power of the title track. Edgar and company know how to be real without falling into the bottomless pit of excessive emotion.

Heartache Easy is superb. It’s sublime. It’s every other superlative you can throw its way. Yes, it is really that good. If you’ve written off the radio and wearily resigned yourself to there being little if any new music worthy of so much as a passing listen, let alone purchase, rescind your resignation and buy this album. Now. Your life will be the better for it. No exaggeration.

The album is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.

Lord of the here and now

Lord of the come what may

I want to believe somehow

That You can heal these wounds of yesterday

So now I’m asking You

To do what You want to do

Be the Lord of my past
Oh how I want You to
Be the Lord of the past


— from “Lord Of The Past” by Bob Bennett

This past Sunday, the mysterious yet not mythical Mrs. Dude and I were in Southern California attending a concert featuring three veterans of contemporary Christian music back when it was still called that: Bob Bennett, Michele Pillar, and Kelly Willard. Each would take a turn performing one of their songs with the other artists providing backing vocals where suggested, all unobtrusively backed by a smooth instrumental quartet featuring respected studio and stage (over twenty years backing Neil Diamond live) guitarist Hadley Hockensmith.

During one of his times Bennett dusted off one of his more obscure tunes. Originally released as a new track to enhance a long out of print compilation, later rerecorded for a mostly stripped down release featuring him alone with his guitar, Bennett introduced “Lord of the Past” by commenting on the song’s core message, adding how many mistakenly believe that Jesus’ forgiving, via the Cross, the penalty of our sins is commensurate with eliminating the consequences of our sin. In short, no it does not. Which can be a very, very hard lesson to learn.

There is a danger in assuming the above translates solely into our needing to accept the consequences of our actions toward others. Certainly this factors into the matter; accepting ownership of the fallout from what we have done is a vital part of any believer’s walk with Christ. That said, it is not the only part. What we do in regard to the consequences of actions by others toward us also matters. Sometimes, it is the primary action item on our life agenda.

The past several weeks have seen a torrent of harsh, often horrid accusations and occasional, pathetic recriminations regarding men in positions of power abusing their status by using it as a conduit for sexually harassing women up to and including rape. There is no excuse, nor justification, for this. Nor is there acceptability for telling abused women they need to get over it and get on with it. A woman who has had that which is intended for the divine, the expression of passionate love between man and wife that also symbolizes the passion of Christ the Bridegroom for His bride the church, threatened or stolen cannot reasonably be expected to simply hit the “what’s done is done” switch and sing hey nonny nonny as she merrily goes on her way. The violation of body, mind, and soul demands deep care to regain so much as basic societal functionality, let alone true healing.

Christianity is at its heart about forgiveness: the forgiveness offered by Jesus on the Cross; His command to His followers to forgive others even as they are forgiven by Him. While Scripture tells us God “forgets” that for which He forgives the penitent, forgiveness on an earthly level is not forgetting what others have done. It is freeing oneself from the penalty of being burdened by the actions of others. The consequences remain, yet we are no longer bound by them. New life is available.

In the same fashion, while the consequences of our past actions toward ourself and others live on, we do not have to forever live under their specter. One of depression’s most hideous lies is conflating the inescapability of our past actions consequences with said actions forever defining our present and future state of being. We are more than the sum total of our past. We are infused, transformed by the Holy Spirit. We are not condemned to repeat the past. The next time does not have to be a recycling of the last time. Today does not have to be yesterday.

The past can be and ofttimes is far better or far worse than our present. We cannot change the past. We can resolve to live our lives in the here and now, embracing today even as we embrace Christ. We can allow Him to embrace us, finding in Him healing and hope in the here and now. We can give to Him that which we can neither deny or change — namely, the past — and let the eternal Lord do what only the eternal Lord can do. He wants to help. He wants to heal.

Will we let Him?

Indulge me as I take a brief trip down memory lane.

I started blogging in 2003, at the time focusing on NASCAR although often chasing down rabbit holes and/or digressing. In May of 2005, for reasons I don’t recall I created a character to occasionally show up in the blog. Specifically, a polar bear named Gord.

Gord was named after Gord Downie, lead singer of iconic Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. His manner of speaking (yes, Gord could talk), featuring frequently beginning his sentences with “why …” was patterned after Mike Myers’ character in Wayne’s World. Gord himself was a kind and gentle sort, living in a zoo and frequently chatting with his friend Cherie, a thrasher who spent most of her time at the zoo although not an official resident.

Over the next few years I fleshed out Gord’s character, introducing assorted elements such as his occasionally listening to “the night whispers,” i.e. spirits of the deceased. He was a handy bear to have around, quite useful for illustrating stories via his storytelling gift.

It occurred to me back in 2009 or thereabouts that Gord would make a nice subject for a sort-of children’s book. I say sort-of because, as I sketched out a plot centered around Gord, there were certain crucial elements a bit darker than usually considered kiddie fare. But, given how one of my earliest movie memories was watching Bambi’s mother get shot, I knew it could work. Another element keeping it from being your normal children’s book is my being anything but skilled in keeping my writing at a child’s reading level. Far too fond of the florid. Not nearly fond enough of staying within the boundaries of acceptable grammar and syntax, but that’s a whole ‘nutter story.

Anyway, in 2009 I started on the book. Plot was sketched out; and I got several chapters into the first draft before losing focus along with most all of my writing mojo during the ’10s. Things get thrown out of proper priority when you’re battling the depression monster pretty much 24/7. Ah well.

Although Gord the polar bear has frequently crossed my mind since I set the book aside, Gord Downie’s passing a couple of weeks ago has sufficiently brought him back to the fore to where I’ve actually dusted off the book and slowly started working on it again. As mentioned above I lost most all of my writing juice this decade as I’ve been too busy trying to get through things. Not that I’m through them, but sufficient balance and joy have rekindled to where the creative spark is again expressing itself through both greatly increased musical activity and again being able to write. I’ll take it.

When or if I’ll finish the Gord book I do not know, nor what I will do with it should I complete it although I suspect I’ll go the self-publishing route as I have before (coughgodsnotdeadbook.comcough). This I do know: I’ve quite missed my silly polar bear. Hopefully he’ll stick around long enough for me to finish telling the story so far.